Drawing Fundamentals: Getting Started


Lesson Info

Blind Contour Portraits

Blind contour portraits. Hm, well who could those be of, I wonder? Ah. Yeah, so this is fun, for me. So, I love this quote by John Singer Sargent. A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth. Okay, I just love it. I think it's so fabulous. And, this is an example of a bunch of blind contour portraits done on Post-Its with students of mine. And it's kind of a getting to know you exercise that I do for some of my college classes where we sit in two concentric circles and we draw each other, and we end up with this whole grid on the wall with little Post-Its, and it's super fun. So, we do it with a big dark pen on a material that's really sort of disposable, because that helps us free up a bit. And what we're gonna do, is we're gonna draw them of each other. Just for a little bit, before the end. We've got about 20 minutes left. And, I'm gonna ask someone to volunteer to come up for me to draw them as a demo. Would anybody be willing to come up to do that? Awesome, come o...

n over. Does that mean I don't have to draw? No, that does not exempt you from drawing, sadly. You'll love it, believe me. Okay. So I'm gonna demonstrate a blind contour drawing. And, we're gonna use our Tombow pens, because that's really brave. Come on over. So, I'm gonna have you here. Is this a good spot? Alright. They're all gonna draw me? No no, I'm only gonna draw you. (laughter) You didn't bargain for this, did you? Okay, so I'm just gonna do a quick drawing of you, to demonstrate this blind contour technique with portraiture. And it's great. You've got these great glasses, and everything is perfect for this. So, and then after we do this, we're gonna just pair up with a partner, and take a turn at it with each other. And we have an odd number of students, so I'll be somebody's partner. And, there you go. Okay. So, it's the same, the same rules apply, but suddenly we're upping the ante because we have a human being there, and it's a face, and oh my goodness, but it can still just be relaxing. Make me look younger. Make you look younger. Okay, I'll see what I can do. Amy, if you don't have a partner, can you do this as a self portrait with a mirror? Thank you for that, that's fabulous. So, I'm just gonna grab this prop. It just so happens ... It's like a cooking show. Ta da. So, people at home can do this in a mirror, or if you don't have someone available to draw, totally in a mirror is super fun. And then you get to really know yourself over time. But I have a friend who did a blind contour self portrait every morning in his mirror in his bathroom. He just left a little pad there. And every morning he'd get up, do a three minute sketch, and by the end of the month it was so cool, because he had this big grid of self portraits. And it was just perfect. It was a diary of his month. Some days his hair was like meh. But it was great. So, yeah so that's a great question, and you can absolutely use a mirror for that. Alright, are you ready? As ready as you're gonna be? Okay, great. So, I'm just gonna do this quick blind contour drawing. Same rules apply. It's with a portrait, it's with a heavier pen. And then we're just gonna pair up across from each other at the table and try it out. Okay? Alright. So, gonna breathe. Get relaxed. And I'm gonna actually turn my paper just a little bit so I can get you. Okay, alright. So, the models are just gonna have to find a place to be, somewhat still. You don't have to be crazy still. You can just, right okay. So I'm gonna, I'm not, so I'm gonna put my pen down, and I'm gonna start ... You can really start anywhere. I find myself often starting on the top of someone's head. And again, it's a really different experience drawing with a pen like this. I can hear it. Makes a different sound, right? And then we're gonna come in and ... So, I'm coming into your eye. Are you winking at me? Yeah. (laughter) And eyebrow. And so everything's interconnected, so that when I come over to the other side of her glasses, and try to get her eye in there. And then the nose. And so I'm not looking at the page. Maybe it will look like a person when I'm done, and that would be nice, but the key thing here again, is that I'm connecting with my subject. So many of us hide behind our drawings. We look at the page the whole time. We're always worried about, oh how does it look, right? But if we actually can slow down to actually look at our subject, and connect with our subject in a way that really helps us learn to see them, and learn them basically, then that can be really wonderful. Okay. So there you are. I gave you a different kind of hairstyle. (laughter) But, you know. So it has a resemblance of a face. Alright, I'll give me that. And sometime if you wanna sit for a portrait, I'll do a real deal thing for you, but- Awesome. But this is also the real deal. This is really about connecting. And we're just gonna try it. We're just gonna try it. Thank you so much Yeah, thank you. for volunteering. So we're just gonna have to rearrange things a little bit, so that people are sitting across from each other. And so let's just see how this will work. I think we can have maybe somebody come onto this side of this table, maybe we can do that. And maybe, could you come join this table here? And then two of you could partner up across from each other. And then I think somebody's gonna ... I think, be better for someone to come up with me here, would you say? Than me going over there? John? Should I go to them, or should they come to me? You can go. Okay, great, perfect, okay. So, let's setup across from somebody. And you're just gonna have your drawing pad, and you're gonna have your Tombow pen. We're just gonna do two quick ones, and then we'll ... Yeah that's great. As long as you're just across from somebody. Who are you gonna partner with? Why don't we stay partners. Yeah. Alright, and then you guys can partner. That's perfect. So, any piece of paper? Just a new piece of ... Can I move this? Yeah, I was letting it dry. Oh good, perfect. Can you use any pen you want- You- Or do you want us to use this one? Try the Tombow. Tombow, okay. Just because it's so bold, and yeah just give it a try. And I think I'll stand. Alright. Alright, are you guys ready? Which side should we use? So, you could use either side. I'm gonna use the brush side, just because it's, I just happen to like the brush side, but if you prefer the thin side, you could use the thin side. It doesn't really matter. Alright, so here's how it's gonna go. You ready? People on this side are gonna model first. So you, and you, and me, and you, okay? So we're just gonna ... I know. (sighs) Alright, and you can model, you can put your head any way you want. You can stick your tongue out if you want, it's fine. And then, and we're just gonna pose. I'm gonna pose, I'm gonna be moving my mouth though, because I'm gonna be talking people through it. Okay, so you have a little bit of a challenge, but okay, alright here we go. Alright. So, you're gonna stare at your partner. And this is done really quietly, because we have to really focus. So you're gonna choose one place that you're gonna start from. Put your pen down, and slowly, slowly, slowly, move across their face. And if you think you're going slow enough, maybe try to slow it down a little more. And this is about, again, establishing this intimate connection with your subject. And notice the layers that occur with that, when it's a person, right? Drawing yourself in a mirror. Or drawing a friend, or drawing a classmate. There's a whole other layer of that experience which is very human. And, really integral to the artistic process. If you get lost, don't worry. You have great cheekbones. Oh, thank you. And if you get as far as the hair, or even the collar of a shirt, that can sometimes be interesting to include. But the main thing is, just really slowing down. Look at the curve of their nose, or look at their earlobe. You'll never forget that face that you drew. You'll never forget the opportunity to slow down and really see. Alright, take a a look down. See what you got. Awesome. (laughter) They're great. They're fabulous. So, you know what? They all have a sense of a human, and they're all really authentic, which is great. Just great. (laughter) Alright, are we ready to switch it up? So, notice the judgment of the outcome. Okay. Alright, this is what I did, and then just let it go. Because this is all about the process, right? Done, okay, here we go. You know what? Artists make hundreds of drawings. You're not gonna make ... If you look at it, if you go to a retrospective of Matisse, you're just seeing a few of the drawings. You're seeing the ones people chose to show. So, here we go. Alright, we're gonna do one more. We've got 10 minutes. We have time to do one more, and have a little closure. You ready? Okay. This side models, this side draws. So, find a place to start. And you're all warmed up now too, so remember to go slow. And this is a new drawing material, so you might remember to try to push and pull it a little bit, to vary the line quality. That's something I always have to remind myself to do, is to kind of have that undulation of the line to create a little more character. And if you end up sort of high up in the drawing, but then you've realize you forgot the mouth, then you can just find your way back. It's okay. Okay. Take a look down, see what you got. (laughter) These are great. That's beautiful. So, you know, it's simplicity, right? Beautiful, beautiful job. That's great. Is that fun? Yeah. So, you can do that in the mirror. You can do that with a friend. You can do it with your cat. You can, or your dog. You can do it anytime, anywhere. It's super fun. And it's always available to you. This idea of finding ways in, help liberate us from our blocks or obstacles. It's gotta be fun. You gotta laugh. The whole starving artist, dark gloomy thing, that's one thing, but, over the years is it really gonna get you to draw? Is it really gonna get you into the studio everyday, or to have something in your purse to draw with? So we really wanna find ways to kind of make the process fun. And also find ways, like the blind contour drawing, to get us to just liberate our sense of what's the product gonna be. Other things you can do is drawing with your left hand, or your non-dominant hand I should say. Doing drawings in that way, where we're not trying to be too tight, and refine things too much. Other things, keeping a sketchbook, doing a drawing a day. Doing drawings that are only for you to see. Private drawings. This is only for me. This book, nobody's ever gonna find this. This is only for me. And then the judgment's out of it. We judge ourselves, but it's not on display for anyone. So, those are things that we can work with, and devise for ourselves. I did a fun thing with my niece a couple weeks ago, where, she was like, let's draw together. And I said okay, what should we draw? And we were ... I said, why don't I make a mark, and then you make a mark. And then I'll make a mark, and then you make a mark. And we did this really awesome drawing together, where we were prompting each other by making marks. And putting in colors. And so there's things that we can do to make it playful. And in the end, all of this playfulness, with materials, getting ourselves familiar with materials, and building our confidence, allows us to then build towards more skill-based activities, which will help us draw more realistically, or in that sense. But you can draw super realistically, but if you don't have joy in the drawing, or gesture in the drawing, or the sense of connection to your subject in the drawing, then it falls flat, right? So we wanna always, I encourage you to find ways to kind of keep that alive for yourselves. So, what have we done? We've definitely explored a larger materials. People have their favorites. Whether it's charcoal, or Tombow, or whatever it might be. And surfaces. So, what pairs with what? I encourage you to draw on a paper bag. Or draw on a napkin. Draw on, there's so many really cool papers out there. There's YUPO paper, which is a polypropylene. There's so many things to experiment with. Definitely I encourage you to keep on with that. We definitely started to build our connection of eye, mind, and hand, through the blind contour drawings. Slowing down, breathing. All of that, super important. Probably almost paramount to the process. And then we started to practice our line sensitivity. Drawing an organic item. Drawing a industrial item. I had the sort of impulse, let's try a ballpoint pen with the industrial item. Okay, what would be your impulse, depending on the object that you were gonna draw. And can we practice that push and pull of the line on the surface, to help us create. There are drawings that are done with three lines that are so gorgeous. Why are they gorgeous? Because the lines are felt. The artist felt the line going down. They varied the line going down. So those are some things that we can continue to work with. So, what are the next steps? Drawing Basics Two, where we're going to cross contour lines and ellipses. This is a little bit more information. A little bit of more information about how to make going from that 2D drawing to more 3D drawing. Wrapping lines around objects. So we're gonna have some fun with that. Working with ellipses. Working with eggs, and cylinders. Basic shapes. This is all really important. Drawing bananas, which is a really nice manifestation of those ideas. Really working with simple facets, and simple shapes, and how that can really help our drawings have three dimensionality. That can be seen in everyday objects, and that'll be really useful for your future drawings, for sure. But even in these everyday objects, do you see the line quality? Do you see how the line changes, and they're more industrial forms but that's all there. It's all there. Thank you so much, and it was really wonderful drawing with you. (applause)

This beginner-friendly class will teach you essential techniques for drawing realistically. Understand the concepts of line quality, contour line, and mark making. You’ll also learn about the materials used in drawing and art so you’re not intimidated by the art store. And you’ll understand how to slow down and ‘see’ things to better draw them. Instructor Amy Wynne teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and exhibits her work nationally, winning numerous grants and awards.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • The expressive potential of a variety of drawing media on varied surfaces
  • How to build a connection between eye, mind and hand
  • To practice sensitive line quality as it relates to mechanical versus organic motifs

By the end of the class, you’ll have created a series of contour drawings of organic and mechanical objects in varied materials.



  • I love taking courses with Amy Wynne. (I've taken courses with her at RISD and I'll pretty much take any course she teaches.) She inspires me. One thing I wish is that I had been given a list of materials so I could have prepared for this and done all the activities as Amy did them. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I loved it!
  • This class was great in demonstrating technique as well as helping me get in the right mindset to draw! I found it very helpful for my own practice and I will continue use what I learned. Amy Wynne is a very thoughtful and motivating teacher.
  • So far so good; the instructor is great. BUT please add a list of materials to purchase and have ready to use for the full benefit and experience in this class! Wish I would have known. I will have to grab these items and come back to re-watch the materials demos section of this class.